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Auto blogThu, 23 Jan 2014 16:29:00 EST
Today in the Tell Us How You Really Feel file we have Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkswagen AG's Group Works Councils and member of the company's supervisory board, labeling the company's US operations "a disaster." Why? Because Osterloh believes VW of America doesn't have the models it needs to be competitive here, hasn't been decisive enough about its plans and German higher-ups still don't understand the US market.
In truth, the top labor rep at the German conglomerate is echoing sentiments we've heard from VWoA executives for years, and there's been the same commentary from dealers: Germany doesn't pay enough attention to what the US market really wants. Even ex-VWoA CEO Stefan Jacoby, who preceded the recently departed Jonathan Browning, said early in his tenure that one of his tasks was to get his German bosses to start delivering what the US market demanded. New CEO Michael Horn is saying much the same thing seven years later, telling Sky News that it has to increase "the speed at which we bring new models to the market and innovation to the market."
Osterloh wants to get "more models" here, including a pickup truck, but we'd wonder if the economics have changed from when Jacoby said they'd need to sell 100,000 per year to make money. Osterloh also wants a decision on where the CrossBlue will be built. Although it looked as if the Chatanooga, TN plant would get the call, the Puebla, Mexico plant is still in the running because of lower operating costs. No matter what happens right now, Osterloh thinks the situation won't get better for another two years when revamped models arrive, but at least the company can start taking the steps for a better US future.
The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is getting a baby brother at this year's 2014 Paris Motor Show in the form of a new Golf Alltrack. Like its larger sibling, the little wagon is supposed to offer light-duty off-road driving ability combined with a more rugged look to show it off.
To give the Golf Alltrack that soft-road ability, VW is outfitting the wagon with its latest 4Motion all-wheel drive system from Haldex. The setup can decouple power from the rear-axle when not needed to save fuel. To further improve traction, the Alltrack gets VW's electronic differential lock, and the car can individually brake its inside wheel during hard cornering for better handling.
Volkswagen also wants the Alltrack to be able to visually show that it can handle getting away from the pavement, even though it starts life as a standard Golf wagon. That means jacking up the suspension an extra 0.75 inches and adding black moldings all the way around the car. There are also redesigned bumpers for the front and rear and silver underbody protection, plus new accents like anodized roof rails and silver mirror caps. The interior is essentially unchanged from the wagon, except for altered trim and Alltrack badges.
Volkswagen and Suzuki have been undergoing marriage counseling in a bid to avoid finalizing their nasty divorce. The blissful union has been troubled for some time, with Volkswagen claiming that it could affect operational decisions at Suzuki, and the Japanese brand's sniping and constant flirting with a certain Italian temptress causing rifts.
The matter first went to court in 2012, when Suzuki demanded VW get out, and leave its 19.9-percent stake in the Japanese brand in a box to the left. Now, Automotive News is reporting that the company will give the relationship one last shot, according to closed-door dealings between the two in London.
Still, it's understood that VW and Suzuki recognize the benefit of their alliance, and that it'd be in the best interests of the kids both parties to make things work. Spokespeople declined to comment to AN, but the newsmagazine spoke with Frank Biller, an analyst for LBBW in Stuttgart, who said, "Both companies stand to benefit if they can overcome the disagreements over leadership claims."